Economic Team

Minnesota Compass data shows that Minnesota consistently ranks at the top on well-being indicators in the country when compared to its counter parts, but have some of the largest and most persistent disparities between Whites and all populations of color. For Asian Minnesotans, the Twin Cities ranks 20 when compared to 25 of its counter-parts in the largest US metro areas.

Widely accepted aggregated data hides economic insecurity experienced by ethnic and sub-populations within Minnesota’s Asian population. For example, an estimated 37,000 Asian Minnesotan adults live under the poverty line (of which 29,000 are Southeast Asians).

In the 2014 State Demographer’s report on median household income, people in the category of ‘Asians’ had the highest household income of $67,900. However, when that data is disaggregated, the Hmong community, which makes up the largest ethnic group under the ‘Asian’ population, has a median income of $32,800, and 34% of Hmong children under the age of 18 years old live in poverty compare to 14% of all Minnesotans.

Despite having a combined Asian American purchasing power of $4 billion and more than 15,000 businesses, generalized data such as those highlighted above leads to systemic exclusion of the population, and often makes communities in need invisible.

To address economic disparities, CAAL’s Economic Working Group will work on the following:

  • Create a capacity building fund that strengthens Asian American community and other community of color led organizations
  • Develop and build an arts, culture and business incubator
  • Incentivize programs/products that help Asian Americans build credit worthisness or access economic mobility
  • Research the barriers that prevent Asian owned businesses from growing
  • Address the persistent poverty experienced by Southeast Asian Americans
  • Create welcoming environments to retain highly skilled workers and their families
  • Make greater efforts to use Asian-owned businesses in public procurement, especially professional services firms
  • Support Asian American entrepreneurs and artists with access to funding (e.g. Arts Cultural and Heritage Fund)
  • Expand the potential of leveraging cultural assets as an economic development strategy (e.g., Little Mekong)


“ We only make so much money… like if I’m not here, I’m not making any money, so it’s hard to build up enough savings to remodel… just to do it out of pocket is really hard… banks are really hard on people now. It’s really hard to get a loan… it takes a lot of money to run a business and my family doesn’t get a lot of help. A lot of the burden falls upon the business owners and that’s a narrative that I don’t think gets highlighted a lot… there’s a lot of expectations placed on the businesses. A lot of assumptions… but nobody knows the story behind how hard it is to run a business.”

–2nd generation multiethnic Asian American


“Asians are not seen in terms of class differences. Asians are stuck in the model minority myth. There are so many Asian workers who are struggling in poverty.”

–1st generation Indian American




“ It’s just an expected cost to help each other… of course grandpas and grandmas… aunts and uncles… you just know that every week you are going to be supporting a family member in doing something and also knowing that my family will help with me… so often it happens where it’s a multigenerational home. You’re expected to open up your home to somebody that might have lost their job, they’re in between something, they might be visiting for a few months. That creates an unexpected economic burden that you might not plan for that’s just an expected part of culture.”

–2nd generation multiracial Asian American